The Norton Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Brad Leithauser (W. W. Norton).
“Included are the most intriguing works by the writers who have defined the genre over the years—Henry James, Oliver Onions, and M. R. James—as well as stories by other authors whose forays into the supernatural are less well known: V. S. Pritchett, Muriel Spark, John Cheever, A. S. Byatt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Philip Graham among others.” —from the book jacket description of The Norton Book of Ghost Stories.
“Philip Graham’s beautiful and moving story ‘Ancient Music’ . . . about love and loss in old age, is a gentle valedictory embrace between the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Michaels on the eve of Mr. Michaels’s death.”
—John Banville, The New York Review of Books
[expand title=”Excerpt from “Ancient Music”:”]
When Mr. Michaels died in the early morning, he floated up through the bedsheets to the ceiling, then slowly into the attic, the old suitcases and rolled-up rugs barely visible in the dark. Finally, his eyes breached the roof and the shingles receded as he quickly drifted up into the air. But the long view of the surrounding town and the distant horizon, the sun still hidden, made him dizzy. There wasn’t any place he wanted to be but home, so he imagined his feet were weighted, each toe fat, each foot heavy. He slowly fell and thought of where he wanted his feet to take him: to the kitchen for the breakfast smell of butter melting into toast, then to the living room to feel the serrated edges of the rare domestic issues of his stamp collection. As he thought of the thick lenses of his glasses on the night table, his feet slipped through the bedroom ceiling, his entire form descending in the air to the carpeted floor. There he stared at his still body and waited for his wife to wake up. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes that he realized what she saw–his quiet figure, its absence of breath easily discovered as she placed her palm against his nostrils. Then she slowly moved her hand down to his chest and held it there for a very long time, her face pressed against his shoulders.